Sweet cup of coffee

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Brett Gagnon got a little taste of Western Hockey League life a few weeks ago, and it included the best seat in the house for a prime goaltending duel.

Gagnon, a 15-year-old netminder for the Winnipeg Hawks midget city team, was called up by the Everett (Wash.) Silvertips, who drafted him in the 12th round of last year's bantam draft.

Everett's regular backup, David Reekie, was sidelined with an injury, so Gagnon spent a week in January riding the bus, practising and taking the warmup prior to four games.

"It was pretty sweet," Gagnon said yesterday.

The young puckstopper didn't come close to seeing any action, as starter Leland Irving never got shaken up during any of the contests.

"I don't know what would've happened if he did," he said.

Another perk was getting to watch Everett's No. 1 goalie, Irving, go head-to-head with Carey Price of the Tri-City Americans. Price led Canada to gold at the world junior hockey championship, while Irving served as his backup.

Price got the last laugh on Jan. 20 in Kennewick, Wash., as he beat Irving and the Silvertips 3-2 in a shootout.

"That was a good one to watch," Gagnon said. "That was probably the best game I saw Irving play when I was out there."

Not only did Gagnon get to quiz the Calgary Flames draft pick about becoming a better goaltender, but he got to spend almost every waking moment with him as well.

"It was pretty exciting," Gagnon said. "I was staying in the same place as Irving, so that was pretty cool staying with him, getting to know him.

"... He said (the world junior) was probably one of the best things he's ever done. He said that was really fun."

Gagnon will try to crack Everett's roster next season, and if he does, he'll go in prepared for what life will be like as a rookie. After the Carey-Irving match in Kennewick, the Silvertips made a five-hour trek to Vancouver, where they took on the Giants the following night.

"I can't really sleep on buses, so I didn't sleep at all," Gagnon said.

When the bus got to Vancouver at 5 a.m., the players headed for their hotel rooms -- except for Gagnon, who was tapped on the shoulder by equipment manager James Stucky.

"He made me go with him to the Vancouver arena and unpack everybody's bag in the room," Gagnon said.

When Gagnon finally got back to the hotel it was 6:30 in the morning.

"I'm just paying my dues, though," he said.


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